the increasing absence of lactation consultants in Irish hospitals | finding breastfeeding support
By Michelle Mayefske
When a family is preparing to breastfeed, the very first thing I say to them is know where you can find support! Yes, breastfeeding is natural, but that doesn't mean it's necessarily easy. While many mums hope breastfeeding will be straight forward, the reality is far more will need help in the form of reassurance, guidance and physical support after baby arrives.
Maybe you have read all the books, joined all the Facebook groups and attended a breastfeeding preparation class. These are all really positive steps, however, issues may still pop up postnatally... and then what? Who do you turn to? Who can dedicate their time and full attention to support you through any struggles?
Scrambling to find a private lactation consultant, infant feeding specialist, breastfeeding support group or clinic when you're engorged, sleep deprived and emotional is not ideal. I encourage every single expectant parent to know where you can go and who you can call for help before baby arrives. Calling upon your pre-written list saves you late night tear-filled, panicked Google searches.
This small bit of research almost always leads to a big revelation: the lack of breastfeeding support in Irish hospitals. Many mums to be assume there will be adequate lactation support in the form of international board certified lactation consultants (IBCLCs) in all hospitals. This simply is not true. Many Irish hospitals either have no lactation consultant, have reduced the number of IBCLCs on staff or may only have one who supports parents on a part time basis. This is in stark contrast to other busy international hospitals, like those in the United States. In my home town, which has a similar population to Limerick, every single hospital had a team of lactation consultants so someone was available to help new parents 24/7. Some paediatrician’s offices even have a lactation consultant on staff. This is unheard of in Ireland and our extremely low breastfeeding rates reflect this massive gap in support.
If you discover your hospital has no lactation consultant (IBCLC) on staff, you need to determine where else you may find help if you need it. The lovely midwives on the postnatal ward may help you, but we know how overstretched they already are. This is not their fault, but it does pose extra challenges for everyone. So what are your options if you are looking for personalised care that can come to you in hospital or even your own home if issues arise? Knowing your options (and when they are available) may be critical for your breastfeeding journey!
Where to start
Find your local breastfeeding groups including La Leche League, Cuidiu, Friends of Breastfeeding and more. Consider visiting them before baby arrives. These groups are massively supportive and love welcoming soon to be mums! Do an internet search for local lactation consultants (IBCLCs) who work privately, attend a class and please know you can reach out to me if you need help! As an Infant Feeding Specialist I am trained in all types of feeding- breastfeeding, bottle feeding, combo feeding, exclusive pumping and more!
I would be happy to meet with you before birth to help you create a feeding plan, answer your questions, go over the "what if"s and support you so you can look forward to feeding your little one with less stress and more joy!
Knowing what supports are available to you can help you achieve your unique feeding goals, whatever they might be.